An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

July 30, 2010

Birthday Wishes

Today I am 50. Though considered a fairly significant birthday, the things I want are simple: some floor mats for my car, the new Band of Horses CD, and maybe for someone to buy me a drink later. However, what I wanted most of all is rain, and that gift came a day early. We had close to 5" within about a 2 hour period yesterday evening, and we needed it bad. Mature trees are turning yellow and shedding leaves, the local corn crop is now just silage or being plowed under, and I am seeing so many customers with dead plants, some mere weeks since they were purchased. We had so much rain that my wife and I had to move our cars so that the water did not flood the interiors, and today I will be replacing mulch washed down the storm drain.


I now imagine, at my advanced age, that I likely have more years behind me then ahead. But I am OK with that, because I tend to see my glass as half full, and today its filled with rainwater.

July 21, 2010

Ocracoke Village

The small village of Ocracoke is the only community on isolated Ocracoke Island. The first people to live here were likely pirates, followed by ship's pilots who knew how to navigate the waters of Pamlico Sound. Later islanders continued to make their living from the sea as waterman, with the Coast Guard or Navy. Today however, most make their money from tourism during the warmer seasons of the year. Despite the summer influx, the town still retains most of the charm that draws people there in the first place. There are no Olive Gardens or McDonalds here, no Holiday Inns or Gaps, just locally owned places to sleep, shop and eat great seafood. Once on the island most visitors park the car and head out on foot, by bike or on golf carts to explore. There is a happening local music scene and the whole place has a quirky, salty, eco-friendly, bohemian kind of vibe.

Okarakcoke Light


Don't Bother Getting Up

Howard St.



My unexpected favorite find was Springer's Point, a 122 acre preserve on the edge of town owned by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. Springer's Point has trails that lead past salt marsh wetlands, Eastern Red Cedars, Yaupon Hollies and through a windswept Live Oak filled maritime forest.
Organic Fence 1

Jerome's Shell

Quercus virginiana 2



Morning Glory 2

Once through the forest you are on Pamilco Sound at Teach's Hole. Edward Teach was better known as Blackbeard. In 1718 the governor of Virginia dispatched Lt. Robert Maynard to Carolina to apprehend Blackbeard who was caught off guard, shot 5 times, cut in 27 places, beheaded and his body thrown into the water here at what would be known as Teach's Hole. His head was put on the bowsprit of Maynard's ship and brought back to Virginia and displayed as a warning (not the Disney version).

Turn Left at Teach's Hole

Organic Fence 3

Teach's Hole 3

Organic Fence 4

This was my fourth trip to Ocracoke Island and my first visit in nearly 15 years, and I enjoyed sharing it with my son. Hopefully I won't wait so long to return.

(My complete photo set from the Village and Springer's Point is here.)

July 18, 2010

Ocracoke Island - On Loan From The Sea

Like many Virginians, the week of July 4th we loaded up the car and headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We made our way south on Route 12, past McMansions built on sand, miniature golf courses and all-you-can-eat buffets to the very end of the road. Our destination was Ocracoke Island, which can only be reached by boat or plane. We took the 45 minute ferry ride from Hatteras Village, over impossibly colored water, to what feels like to me to be the end of the world and delightfully so.


Boy and Birds

Laughing Gulls

Red and Green Buoy in a Blue Sea

The majority of Ocracoke is protected as part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the much smaller remainder is occupied by Ocracoke Village. The island is skinny, 15 miles long by about half a mile wide with marshes and a few low forests on the Pamlico Sound side, and dunes with some of the most pristine Atlantic beaches on the ocean side. Behind these dunes was where we set up camp, and unlike the mountains (thinking every nightsound could be a bear), it was soothing to hear waves crashing throughout the night. The stars were amazing, and during the day we were treated to shows put on by the ever-changing skies.

Friday Morning

Friday Afternoon Storm (2)

Friday Afternoon Storm (6)

Pirate Flags

Saturday Morning (5)

Saturday Morning (8)

We did have several opportunities to enjoy the beach without threat of storms. Saturday afternoon the beach started to get crowded - by Ocracoke standards.

Blue Sky Beach

This was the sunrise on the day we had to leave, and I believe the best was saved for last.

Sunday Morning

We will head to Ocracoke village in my next post, but if you want to see the rest of this set, click here.

July 15, 2010

Third Annual Citywide Bloom Day

Long-term viewers of this blog may recall that in July I celebrate this city's signature tree, the Crape Myrtle. For no particular reason, this year I decided to only take pictures of trees that I walked or biked to, perhaps I am trying to operate a greener (or pinker) blog. Fortunately, my neighborhood's streets are lined with Crapes and everything that takes place on them at this time of year is done so underneath a giant pink canopy.


New York Ave.

Newport Ave.

Colley Ave. Closer

Many people don't like the Crape Myrtle because of what it leaves on cars, on sidewalks or in the street, but this is one of the reasons I like the tree. When you go out in the morning you find everything has been festooned with blossoms as if a parade just went by while you were still inside brushing your teeth.

Lavender in the Gutter

Pink Rain

State Inspection Due

Sidewalk Blooms

Pink in the Gutter

Norfolk once had a reputation of being a drab Navy town, and is indeed home to the largest naval facility in the world, but at this time of year it is anything but drab, and even so, battleship grey goes well with pink.

Battleship Gray and Coral Pink

If you would like to see what is blooming in other parts of the country and the larger world beyond, please pay a visit to Carol at May Dreams Garden who each month hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day from the beautiful green hills of Indiana.

July 12, 2010

Goodbye, Miss Patsy

We got Miss Patsy right after Otto died, sooner than I thought proper to his memory, but I had been a week without a dog and couldn't tolerate the situation any longer. Her pregnant mother was found in Moyock, NC and was taken to the Animal Assistance League where she delivered her pups. Every single dog in the litter looked different, but I was smitten by Patsy's demure manner and dappled, blue tick coat. Her remarkable coloration inclined me to name her Opal, but my wife preferred my second choice, Miss Patsy in honor of Patsy Cline. Being born where she was (which also was a veterinary and a doggy hotel) gave her a better start in life than many shelter dogs. She was easily house broken, not destructive and seemed to handle being left alone with a mean old cat while us two young marrieds were at work all day.

Patsy 1

Patsy never knew a stranger, and while all the other dogs at the dog park were busy sniffing each other, Patsy would be making the rounds among the humans to see who would return her affections, then move on to someone new. She especially liked the elderly and little children, and much to the concern of young mothers, would make a bee line to see who was sitting in any stroller. She was very good as our son was growing up, never once showing anything other than total tolerance to being pulled at and climbed on. Late in her life she became a therapy dog for kids struggling to read. While they plodded through vowels and consonants, she would sit patiently at their feet listening without judgement.

Patsy Dozes

Patsy was a love sponge and wanted nothing more than to be petted, unless of course you could roll around on the floor with her in a human vs. canine wrestling match. When she was very happy she purred like a feline (perhaps because she was left alone with that mean old cat). As good as she was with humans, dogs and cats - she was ruthless with small furry or feathered things. Diana the Huntress managed to catch birds on the wing, a possum in the back yard, muskrats, and let's not forget squirrels, for as any hound can tell you, once you have had your mouth on squirrel butt you are a changed dog.

Patsy Shut

Always up for adventure, camping, a walk or any trip involving the car, she was a great companion and travelled well. Today she took her last ride and even got to sit up front, looking more at ease then she had in months. It has been difficult to watch her slow decline and even more difficult to know when it was time to let her go. Before leaving for the vet today I was full of second guesses and trepidation, but as the radio came on in the car the first words I heard were:
Glory be to God for dappled things-

This is the first line from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins titled Pied Beauty. It was being read on a show about poetry on NPR. I was unable to listen to the rest of the poem, being incapable of moving beyond that first line, but knowing that we had made the right decision to let her go.

It is said a dog's year equals 7 of ours, but for me, my life is measured out in dog's years.

July 7, 2010

The Road to Sandbridge

Over the weekend we had very atypical summer weather with temperatures barely in the 80's, crystal blue skies, light breezes and almost no humidity. It was perfect weather for the Independence Day holiday, and so different from the oppressive heat and haze we are now in. Saturday I headed to Sandbridge with my son and two of his friends, where the beach conditions were just as ideal as the weather. The water was clear, free of jellyfish, had decent waves and the occasional dolphin with lines of pelicans flying overhead. In spite of constantly making sure neither of the boys drowned or got embarrassingly out of hand, it was a very enjoyable day.

The roads that lead to and from Sandbridge go through some of the last rural areas of Virginia Beach and by several family run farmer's markets. On the way home we stopped at Bay Breeze Farms, and I managed to come away with the best watermelon, fresh tomatoes, peaches, blueberries and the first corn of the season. What caught my eye and made me pull into this place over the other choices were its fields of Zinnias and Sunflowers.

Zinnia (3)

Zinnia (2)

Zinnia (5)

Zinnia (7)

Zinnia (6)

Sunflower (2)

Zinnia (4)